The Senate Gang of Eight, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), will host a press conference this afternoon at 2:30 to discuss their newly introduced immigration legislation. The Gang of Eight bill is a strong starting point for the legislative debate and its bipartisan support a testament to the fact that problem-solving and compromise can still lead to breakthroughs that surmount Washington gridlock and partisanship. Tomorrow and Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), will ensure that the legislative process is transparent and deliberative by holding the fourth and fifth in a series of thorough and robust hearings on immigration reform.
Meanwhile, at 2:15 today, Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and David Vitter (R-LA), the heads of the anti-immigrant “Gang of Hate” in Congress, are holding a competing press conference to make their case against reform and for the status quo. We’ll save you the trouble of attending their presser: expect to hear charges of “amnesty,” complaints about “process” (despite Senator Leahy’s demonstrated commitment to a fair process) and exaggerated stats from debunked studies authored by anti-immigrant organizations.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
While Senators from both parties have joined the Gang of Eight to make history, Sessions and Vitter have formed the ‘Gang of Hate’ to make trouble. Their strategy is to peddle misinformation and howl about process in hopes of derailing immigration reform. To Sessions and Vitter, anything short of ‘self-deportation’ is ‘amnesty,’ and maintaining a permanent underclass of undocumented immigrants living in fear is somehow preferable to bipartisan legislation that would establish a modern legal immigration system.
Already, Senator Sessions has been linked to the first transparent attempt to establish a “death panel” falsehood about the new immigration bill – his Chief Counsel, Danielle Cutrona, helped push false rumors about an “amnesty phone” that spread in conservative media circles until Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) confronted and debunked the transparent falsehood yesterday. In addition, Senator Sessions has close working relationships with the John Tanton network of anti-immigrant groups: the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). FAIR, labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is busy proving their increasing irrelevance this week – holding a lightly attended gathering of anti-immigrant radio hosts and recycling tired and incendiary arguments against reform and immigration in general. Despite the disconnect between these organizations and everything from public opinion to political incentives to sensible policy, they still have a friend in Jeff Sessions, as we discuss here.
Meanwhile, it continues to be a rich bit of irony that Senator Vitter – a man with direct, first-hand experience with prosecutorial amnesty – continues to denounce it whenever discussed in the context of immigration reform. While Sessions will be the public face of the “Gang of Hate” at upcoming Judiciary Committee hearings on the immigration bill, and has Senator Vitter as his Senate sidekick, there seems to be a couple of pending applications for the Gang of Hate from anti-immigrant House Members Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX). King recently used the Boston Marathon tragedy to call for derailing immigration reform and Gohmert stated that Al Qaeda members are being “trained to act like Hispanic [sic]”).
The contrast between the leaders and the haters has never been clearer. At the end of the day, which group will define the GOP? The party’s future may well rest on the outcome.